We continue our Interview with a Blogger series with multiple Microsoft uber-blogger Marc Orchant.
How has it been at WIN?
It's been a wild ride. In the early days of WIN, we had a lot fewer blogs and the growth has been astonishing to watch. When I started with WIN, getting paid for blogging was a promise, not a reality. I had the sense, right out of the gate, that I was really fortunate to get in on the ground floor of a true net phenomenon and, of course, that is exactly what it's turned out to be. I've made some really special friendships with people that, up until the recent WINStock meeting in New York, I had never met in person - just built a solid virtual friendship with via e-mail and IM. Finally having an opportunity to meet many of these folks has only reinforced what I knew in my gut all along - that Weblogs, Inc. is a force to be reckoned with and a truly unique assemblage of talent, creativity, and unlimited energy. I'm excited about the future and feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this new kind of company - one that promotes original thinking and asks "why not?" when ideas are tossed into the ring for discussion and consideration. The past few months have been really extraordinary. We are building a world-class management team to support the bloggers and, of course, the recent deal that makes up part of AOL promises to bring our blogs into the mainstream in ways I can only imagine at the moment.
What was your first blog and why did you start it?
My first "real" blog was Marc's Outlook on Productivity at the OfficeZealot.com community site. I've been writing online for what feels like forever - beginning on BBS systems, CompuServe, and AppleLink back in the pre-net days when the definition of a power user was having a 1200 baud modem when everyone else had a 300 baud unit. Of course, back in those prehistoric times, we were still slow and dim-witted and it took us a while to figure out that if everyone else still had a slow modem, it really didn't matter if we had a fast one. But we've evolved, have begun to figure out the opposable thumb thing, and now can make and use tools.
Where were we? Oh yes... blogging. Well, I was a heavy poster in a number of online discussion forums that centered on whatever I was passionate about at the time (PDAs, Getting Things Done, extreme skiing, my current car, etc.) and a fellow named Chris Kunicki, who is one of the founders of the OfficeZealot community reached out to me and asked me if I had ever thought about blogging. He invited me to join the community and begged me to write about Getting Things Done, the productivity system developed by David Allen, which I've been practicing for many years. Chris found me through my participation in both the GTD Forums that Allen's company hosts and in a discussion and support forum for the GTD Outlook add-in developed by NetCentrics. I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog anyway so I decided this would be as good a way to begin as any - and better than just starting one up since there was already a decent level of traffic coming to the OfficeZealot home page where they aggregate the latest posts from everyone in the community. Marc's Outlook quickly became one of the most visited blogs in the community.
What's the best part about blogging?
It puts me in a position to write every day about things I'm really passionate about and interested in. That's really why I started blogging. I "grew up" in the publishing business and have written for newspapers and magazines since the late 70's. I'm also a recovering graphic designer and, much to the surprise of those who have come to know me from my blogging (which is very Microsoft-oriented), I'm a long-time Mac user beginning in the very first days of the Mac 128, the original LaserWriter, and the introduction of desktop publishing with Aldus PageMaker. Blogging provides me with an outlet where I can express my opinions, share exciting news, do a bit of pontificating, and interact with really interesting people from all over the world. What could be more fun than that? Blogging for WIN is a very high profile gig - I've made some great connections with a lot of people I probably would never have had the opportunity to get to know without the kind of exposure I get being a part of this network. Let's face it - Albuquerque, New Mexico is not exactly the hot spot of the tech world (although it is, IMNSHO, one of the best places in the country to live and work).
Why did you start working with Weblogs, Inc.?
I had been writing for OfficeZealot for about a year when Steve Rubel, who had become a frequent correspondent because he had been following what I wrote about GTD, nominated me for the Feedster Feed of the Day award. Marc's Outlook was, in fact, selected for that recognition and the day after it was announced on Feedster, I got an e-mail from Jason Calacanis. It read, in the simple, straight-to-the-point style he's famous for, much the same way Steve Jobs famous challenge to John Sculley did when he was recruiting Sculley away from Pepsi ("Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world?"). He wrote, "How would you like to blog for Weblogs, Inc., build a huge audience, and make some money doing what you're already doing with such passion and energy?" Man - how can you resist a pitch like that? I started blogging for WIN in May of 2004 writing the Office Weblog and the Tablet PCs Weblog. I've since taken over the Microsoft Weblog (Unofficial) as well, and occasionally contribute to a number of other WIN blogs - especially Download Squad. One of the things I enjoy most about blogging for WIN is the limitless opportunity to write on a wide range of topics every day.
What do you do when you're not blogging?
My life is pretty full. I have an incredible "day job" at VanDyke Software - a very successful company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico (which I've called home for the past 25 years). My title at VanDyke is Storyteller - I manage the company's web site, marketing, and public and analyst relations - that is, I tell stories all day long. I'm involved with a local professional organization - the New Mexico Information Technology and Software Association and focus my energies there on an initiative called the Workforce Education Alliance which is working with educators, legislators, and community leaders to redesign and reform public education in New Mexico's high schools. I just contributed an essay titled "Work is Broken" to the More Space project which is a book and online content that includes the writings of nine exceptional bloggers. I'm now developing the essay into a book-length treatment - it's a discussion about the impact technology and the always-connected, always-on lifestyle so many of us lead has had on personal, team, and organizational productivity. I co-host OnTheRun with Tablet PCs, a weekly podcast about Tablet PCs with my buddy James Kendrick, a Tablet PC MVP and mobile computing guru. Up until about a year ago, I was the co-host of a weekly, two-hour talk radio show broadcast here in New Mexico as well as in Salt Lake City and Austin. I'm a member of the MSN Search Champs - a ever-changing collection of people from the SEO, SEM, and blogging worlds that act as an advisory group for Microsoft's MSN Search team. I spend as much time as I can with my two kids - Becca is 21 and a senior in Dramatic Writing at the University of New Mexico and Jason is a 14-year-old geek who, like his dad, is happiest when he's playing with the latest, greatest gadgets and software. My wife Sue is a fine artist and I spend quite a bit of time supporting her work and marveling at the beautiful things she creates. Sue and I are huge music fans and travel whenever we can all over the West seeing some of our favorite bands (we're both longtime Deadheads). My latest project is a vintage 1988 Toyota MR2 mid-engine, supercharged sports car which I hope to fully restore. And I try to play with my dog, Eliza - the world's largest Golden Retriever (she's a svelte 110 lbs. of muscle and fur).